A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

[For the journal--guidelines, focus, etc.--go to www.theamericandissident.org. If you have questions, please contact me at todslone@hotmail.com. Comments are NOT moderated (i.e., CENSORED)!]
Encouraged censorship and self-censorship seem to have become popular in America today. Those who censor others, not just self, tend to favor the term "moderate," as opposed to "censor" and "moderation" to "censorship." But that doesn't change what they do. They still act as Little Caesars or Big Brother protectors of the thin-skinned. Democracy, however, demands a tough populace, not so easily offended. On this blog, and to buck the trend of censorship, banning, and ostracizing, comments are NEVER "moderated." Rarely (almost NEVER) do the targets of these blog entries respond in an effort to defend themselves with cogent counter-argumentation. This blog is testimony to how little academics, poets, critics, newspaper editors, cartoonists, political hacks, cultural council apparatchiks, librarians et al appreciate VIGOROUS DEBATE, cornerstone of democracy. Clearly, far too many of them could likely prosper just fine in places like communist China and Cuba or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia, not to mention Sweden, England, and Austria.

More P. Maudit cartoons (and essays) at Global Free Press: http://www.globalfreepress.org

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Open Letter to Americans for the Arts

Open Letter to Americans for the Arts
Indirectly, I received your urgent email, “Breaking News,” regarding the approval of the “egregious amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)” to the economic recovery bill, which stipulated, as noted in that email: "None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project."

You, of course, were disappointed: “Unfortunately, the amendment passed by a wide vote margin of 73-24, and surprisingly included support from many high profile Senators including Chuck Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and several other Democratic and Republican Senators.”

However, I was delighted! Indeed, why should DISSIDENT poets, writers, artists, and editors be at all upset by what seemed to have upset you so much? After all, we did not receive funding. We did not receive awards. We did not receive lucrative fellowships. We did not receive grants. We did not receive NPR invitations to jabber on the air with PC-bourgeois tonality. The easy public monies were simply not for us!

The Boston Globe ran an article rightfully against the push by multimillionaire Quincy Jones to get Obama to establish a Ministry of the Fine Arts. What it failed to realize, however, was that the nation already had such a Ministry. The NEA served that function, while NPR acted as its voice. Former director Dana Gioia served the role of arts tsar, a good term for it, since the arts tsar served as dictator of aesthetics and taste, inevitably favoring the bourgeois over the dissident. Indeed, the art the NEA tended to push was ineluctably of the established-order variety. What the Boston Globe needed to do was examine the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which acted as the state Ministry of the Arts. Why did it not do that?

As long as all political artistic persuasions were not treated equally by state cultural apparatchiks, public money should not be spent on the arts. The nation did not need more NPR smiley-faced multimillionaire artists with effete sounding voices a la Quincy Jones or Herbie Hancock! What it needed was more artists daring to “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson) and who let their lives “be a counterfriction to stop the machine” (Thoreau). Of course, such artists would not make successful careerists, let alone cultural apparatchiks like Charles Coe and Mina Wright of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Money, like it or not, determined which art would be promoted and end up in the nation’s museums. Lack of money, connections, and networking prowess would likely relegate the artist (or writer), no matter how good, into the oubliettes.

Indeed, why would dissidents wish to see more public taxpayer monies flow into the hands of cultural agencies and projects? Why would they wish to see such monies flow into the hands of the Concord Cultural Council, for example, which recently adopted a rule eliminating from funding any project it decided to deem of a “political nature.” This year it gave public money to Friends of the Performing Arts of Concord, for its “Concord Messiah Sing.” Yet how could one possibly conceive according public monies to religious song events as apolitical? In fact, it was perhaps unconstitutional! The new “political nature” rule was adopted, by the way, to keep me from obtaining public funding. The Concord Journal refused to publish my criticism of the Council.

Why would dissidents wish to see more public monies flow into the hands of the National Endowment for the Arts, which made autocratic determinations? Indeed, it deemed The American Dissident “low” and “poor” and refused to provide any specific information with that regard, despite my citizen requests. Why would dissidents wish to see more public monies flow into the hands of the Academy of American Poets, which acted as bourgeois censor and held bourgeois panels of "distinguished" bourgeois poetasters on bourgeois aesthetics? As for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, its hack-appointed apparatchiks simply refused to respond to my citizen questions:

1. Why did taxpayers fund Agni and Harvard University Museums, for example, when both organizations were connected to private billion-dollar corporate-educational institutions? Did that not indicate something rotten in the very hearts and minds of grant-according panelists and in the MCC in general? SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILENCE!

2. Why did the MCC only fund literary journals that didn’t really need the funding? In other words, why did a journal with a budget under the necessary $10K minimum not even merit consideration for funding? As editor of The American Dissident, a highly unique literary journal devoted to unusual vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, I could not even get funding from the local Concord Cultural Council. Nothing! And I’d been trying for over a decade! SIIIIIIILENCE!

3. Why did the MCC rarely, or perhaps never, have as panelists individuals whose very creation was focused on hardcore criticism of the academic/literary established-order milieu and canon itself? If a project highly dissident in nature with such a focus were to be presented before established-order type panelists, evidently it would immediately be deemed not of “artistic excellence.” After all, it would take a rare panelist who could look at criticism of the panelist him or herself… and actually proceed objectively. How could I become a rare dissident panelist for the MCC? SIIIIIIIIIIIILENCE!
4. Dan Blask, MCC Program Coordinator, stated: “Since we rely on panelists solely for their artistic opinions, when selecting them we focus on their artistic expertise and accomplishments…” Since “accomplishments,” however, inevitably translated as popularity in the established-order milieu, didn’t that rule for obtaining panelists exclude someone with a dissident outlook and focus (i.e., someone not popular in the milieu, thus not “accomplished”)? SIIIIIIIIIIILENCE!

5. Since the MCC was a public organization, should it not make a special effort to open its doors not simply to multicultural viewpoints, but to dissident-political viewpoints as well? Would that not benefit democracy, as opposed to literature as usual in the status-quo oligarchy? SIIIIIIIILLENCE!

Clearly, those were tough questions without simple answers. For democracy, however, they demanded answers.

Finally, funding the projects Americans for the Arts wanted funded would likely not produce jobs in a time where jobs were desperately needed. As an unemployed professor, I was perhaps unemployable in my profession because I had spoken out against the likes of Americans for the Arts, NEA, MCC, etc. Indeed, until your group spoke for all artists, poets, and writers, how could one not perceive it as just another hissing snake head of the established-order GORGON, enemy of democracy?

Herd poets, writers, artists, professors, cultural council apparatchiks and others in the “Arts” seemed to harbor a clear preference for bourgeois tone and etiquette over vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy. Because of that egregious preference, it would be surprising if you responded to this open-letter blog entry. Miracles, however, did happen… though quite rarely.


mather said...

This isn't about your blog really, but I wanted to say good AD. I liked the prison poetry, also the letters from Jack Hirschman are great. He's big time and there he is! Ha ha, telling you to read is book and labeling it the greatest, etc. ho, hum, fllllurr...1,000 pages, por favor! Anyway good job, you need to bait more people like him! He's like Winans to me, not a very good poet, but not TERRIBLE either, just nothing really in the shadow of Buk, and so obviously in love with himself, his image and his writing. "Street poet", my ass! He's no different...

I also liked the Galing letter. I found myself agreeing with you both. Imagine that...He's a real honest guy, and to me his letter points to the danger of drawing such clear lines between poets/people.

I haven't read it complete yet, but have to say again it is a very nice looking thing, you do a fine job on that budget, and it is something to be proud of, certainly not "low" like the grant council said.

Looks like I'm kissing your ass now, verdad? Hell, I like the journal, always have, you know that.

mather said...

David Ochs is good, I don't see much of him, which is probably a good thing. I've read that second poem before somewhere...on the net...

mather said...

Do you know anything about Emerison College? I believe it's up in your neck of the woods...

G. Tod Slone said...

Yeah, Emerson College is up here abouts. It puts out Ploughshares... and doesn't respond to my emails. Yes, Ochs can write a good poem. Thanks for notes on AD.

mather said...

Emerson College is also home to Matt DiGangi and Thieves Jargon, "world's greatest poetry web zine". I forgot about Ploughshares, it's easy to do.

Jon Gregory said...

Hello, Tod:

I do appreciate your skewering of Eastern liberal poseurs. But as an almost lifelong Texan, I can assure you that the only thing worse than them is right-wing poseurs. In the arts, they don't have to get government money, because they get plenty from places like Westover Hills and Highland Park, Texas. These are circles in which the poets and artists are more bourgeois than the bourgeoisie.

By the way, you know a dude name of Dahn Shaulis, right? He's been sending out e-mails about you.

Hey, I didn't get a recent AD. Am I still a subscriber?

G. Tod Slone said...

In Massachusetts, right wingers are almost invisible. Here, leftist liberals behave as if they were right wingers, which is why I hammer them whenever possible. Evidently, the situation is quite different in Texas. And hell, I’d be more than interested in a poem or essay on “In the arts, they don't have to get government money, because they get plenty from places like Westover Hills and Highland Park, Texas. These are circles in which the poets and artists are more bourgeois than the bourgeoisie.”
What irks me are the left-wing poets who eagerly (and rightfully!) write against the Iraq war, but don’t have the guts to write about the speech codes and other censorship on the diverse campuses that employ many of them. Their diverse literary journals tend also to be proponents of censorship and those left-wingers remain silent on that. “It is easy to be brave from a distance and often safe,” notes an old American Indian proverb.
As for the Shaulis battle, the entire 60 pp correspondence plus caustic cartoon are located here: http://www.theamericandissident.org/Shaulis.htm. My last unanswered email to Shaulis is the following and on that web page. Of course, I’d be interested in knowing how others might perceive his accusation that I am a “racist and sexist,” as is The AD. But I’d never expect anyone to read those 60pp. Shaulis challenged me to put them up, so I took the challenge and did so. In fact, maybe that will be my next blog entry.
One thing that I am not is a grudge holder. Don’t worry, I had no intention of contacting people at your community college. My door will always be open to you, though I do hope you will one day reconsider your accusations and denigration of my character. G. Tod

G. Tod Slone said...

The following is from Thieves Jargon. Sounds aberrant to me:

"Submissions can be either joint locks or chokes.
They are also invite-only. How to get invited:
-- Be previously published in Thieves Jargon
-- Read the archives, send nice letters to your favorite authors, see if they'll recommend you
-- Get published somewhere else, and we'll come find you."

mather said...

Yes, aberrant, that's one way to put it. Digangi's guidelines, or as he likes to call it, his "mission statement" is something he's very proud of. This highly discriminatory manner of literature selection is somehow to explain his three mile author's list. Digangi thinks if he hasn't heard of you then you must suck, which is funny considering he's just now discovering Lolita. He treated me like I hadn't paid enough dues to even think of submitting to his 24 year old college ass journal. I told him to just say "No submissions" and be done with it, but then he can't play the fun game of condescension he plays with anyone not in his little (big) socialist group. Oh, brother, I was supposed to write to Andy Riverbed and try to get recommended! Ja ja! I gave up on those bozos, I couldn't even get a decent razzing from them. "Matherfucker" "matherbated" "Cotton" and "a word to your mather" was about all I received. Oh yes, and one very serious and unsettling threat of rape.


mather said...

Sorry, one more thing: to tie it into Shaulis accusing you of being a racist, someone said the very same thing about me on the Thieves Jargon blog, said I was a racist and a homophobe. I thought it came out of left field, the racist thing, have no idea what could have prompted it, though I did use the word "fag" once, in what I considered a playful manner, but anyway it naturally proves I hate all gay people and their families. Another funny thing is, when someone calls me a "racist" or a "homophobe" it doesn't hurt. It doesn't hurt because it's not true and I know it. It's like in high school people used to call me faggot all the time, but I never got too angry because it wasn't true and I knew it. I laughed actually. I mean, the hatred and the DESIRE to insult me was there, and that was upsetting sometimes, but the actual accusation was stupid, just like calling you a racist. The whole thing is ridiculous...what's a racist anyway? Is anyone purely uncritical of people across the board? It's impossible, inhuman. People like Shaulis act as if one of the main goals in a person's life should be to fight to always refrain from having even the APPEARANCE of being a "racist". To me, strong character is what matters, period. You can't be strong, you can't get any real work done or create anything worthwhile if you're constantly worried about this kind of pr. And you certainly can't be funny...

G. Tod Slone said...

Never heard of Andy Riverbed. Should I have? The names they called you reminds me of my joust with the Academy of American Poets.

Now, this sounds like our joust and the way how I felt: "Another funny thing is, when someone calls me a "racist" or a "homophobe" it doesn't hurt. It doesn't hurt because it's not true and I know it."

Why did they call you a "faggot" in high school? Were you a loner?

I think the best thing I hit Shaulis with was my rejection of the race test he wanted me to take. What I did was alter the first ridiculous question of that test, which was something like: Who would you prefer seeing, all whites or all blacks? So I asked him if he were walking in a small black town at night in a highly racial southern state like Louisiana, who would he rather see, all whites or all blacks? He refused to respond. And I posed the question over and over. And that's how that cartoon got formed.

Well, this sounds true and like a good point: "People like Shaulis act as if one of the main goals in a person's life should be to fight to always refrain from having even the APPEARANCE of being a "racist"."

mather said...

No, you shouldn't have heard of Andy Riverbed, that was my point. He's one of the Thieves Jargon editors and favorite writers. He's one of the veterans, I think he's twenty two. He writes prose like Hubert Selby Jr. (unreadable) except without the originality: street/drug/hip nonsense prose that says nothing and goes nowhere, but really seems COOL...

I got called a faggot countless times because I lived in a small redneck town (Glasford, Illinois, Pop. 1,000) and I was a new-waver/punk rocker, hair in my face, ripped jeans, etc. I wasn't a complete loner, I had a few friends who got called faggots too.

Yes, I read that part where Shaulis refused to answer your question about who he'd rather see on the street. Really it depends on the KIND of black or white people I see walking toward me. I don't like the white toughs, or Mexicans either, and have had plenty of bullshit from all them. In fact I grew up in a TOTALLY white community and got yelled at and beat up several times by members of my own race. But, this is also true: many black people are INCREDIBLY racist, I deal with many blacks with my job, and if Shaulis can't admit this obvious fact he must live in a different world.

All this talk about racism and homophobia, etc, I don't get it. On the net now I've been looking around a lot, and it seems a common thing for editors to say: no racist or homophobic poetry. This seems to imply that they are bombarded with this type of thing, which I find hard to believe. It just seems like a
politically correct stance, the thing to say, to show how open (closed) minded they are. There is nothing behind it. There just can't be THAT MANY poets out there writing real racist/homophobic shit, can there? Am I naive? Or have they stretched the meaning of racist to include anyone who admits a preference?

I also see "ad hominem" thrown around a lot, and I don't mean that kind of argument, I mean that PHRASE. I never even heard that phrase until I read it on your site, and now I see editors saying everywhere: "No ad hominem reviews," etc.

To take a test to see if you're racist is like standing on the scale to see if you're fat. Ok, so what if you failed the test, what then? Time for THERAPY! Time for MIND CONTROL! What do you get if you pass the test? A little empty smiley face.

G. Tod Slone said...

Haven't seen ad hominem that much and never saw "no ad hom reviews." Excellent point on "no racist or homophobic" poems. What I tire of is every other mag seeming to stipulate it publishes homo/lesbo poetry. Anyhow, I'm off for NH to sleep in the car tonight. It's 20. But I have plenty of covers. Read last night at Endicott College. It was great fun. Got paid $100 smackers! Haven't read since 2004 and that was in a bar in Montreal and I was beyond shit-faced.

mather said...

Never done a public reading in my life. The thought of it scares me to the point of the shakes...I'm sure 100 dollars doesn't go far up there in the land of expensive EVERYTHING.

G. Tod Slone said...

The question remains regarding the reading, and of course I'll never know the answer. Was I akin to a preacher in a roomful of atheists? It wasn't the $100 that hooked me, but rather the op to tell it as I saw it in front of about 80 professors and students. Rarely do I ever get such an opportunity.